History of Autism Initially autism blamed on parents being cold distant or

History of autism initially autism blamed on parents

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History of Autism Initially, autism blamed on parents being “cold, distant, or rejecting” of their children – “Refrigerator Mothers” Research has shown that parenting cannot be the cause of autism – e.g., similar parenting for siblings with autism as without Any differences noted in parenting is now seen as a reaction to child’s emotional distance and non-social behaviors Large increase in number of cases since it was first identified in the 1930’s and 1940’s by Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger Theories surged looking for environmental factors to explain this “epidemic,” with a large focus on vaccines but no data to support them
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Correlation vs. Causation  History of autism highlights the importance of not jumping to conclusions CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION! E.g., higher rates of autism in children born in urban areas Research has shown no connection between vaccines and autism, but some of the public still holds fear of vaccinations
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Epidemic of Autism? Increase in prevalence doesn’t necessarily mean an epidemic Increasing diagnostic rates most likely due to broadened diagnostic criteria and increased awareness/services, rather than increased rates of the disorder actually occurring (diagnosed or not) Catching all of the cases that previously may have been missed (e.g., high functioning individuals) or categorized into other labels (e.g., intellectual disability; learning disorders) Possible that there are more cases than in the past – continued, careful epidemiological research will help tease this apart
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Causes of ASD Combination of genes and environment, with multiple genes involved “The Autisms” – ASD really made up of many different disorders, explaining the heterogeneity, but we can’t differentiate them yet E.g., Gene for Rett’s Disorder identified, form of autism only in girls with particular repetitive hand and feet movements Genetic factors: Higher prevalence (~20%) in siblings of children with ASD Increased odds if you have more than one sibling with ASD Higher concordance among MZ twins vs. DZ twins
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Abrahams and Geschwind 2009
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Causes of ASD, cont. Other Biological Factors – assessed primarily through neuroimagining studies and other brain-based research methods (e.g., EEG/ERP) Rapid brain growth in early development Research into structure and function of brain areas related to emotions, sensorimotor movement, and higher level thinking Possible abnormalities with mirror neurons and/or neurotransmitters: Mirror neurons – fire when individual performs an action or another individual, connected with imitation and learning and may relate to social and emotional processes Oxytocin – related to mother-infant attachment and other social behaviors
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Causes of ASD, cont.
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